When upgrading your website or even just improving your existing one, you need to know that the changes you’re making are helping you to achieve your KPIs and business objectives. Throughout our website upgrade series we’ve focussed on what your new website will achieve and how.
We need to spend some time focusing on right now - How your current website is performing, where it is succeeding and which areas need work. To do this, we need to start your benchmark journey.
We’d hope that if you’ve gotten this far, we don’t need to convince you on what benefits benchmarking will give you and your marketing team. If you still need to be sold on why investing a little bit of time now will create better successes in the future, our blog on why benchmarking is important is a great starting point.
How to Benchmark
At the beginning of your website upgrade process, you should have created SMART website goals for every area of your organisation. These goals are important to the success of the website and should be the trigger for your benchmarking metrics.
Let’s carry on our example from the previous post, increasing online donations.
Step 1: Pick a SMART goal.
Example: Increase online donations by 20% before the end of the next financial year.
Step 2: Decide which metrics will help you monitor how this can be improved.
Example: Cart abandonment rate, bounce rate, exit pages.
Step 3: Set a schedule. Benchmarking needs to be done little and often. Remember our road trip analogy for stopping regularly to refuel.
Example: We have 15 months until the end of the financial year in our SMART goal. We’re upgrading our website so we should benchmark every 2-3 months until the new website launches at which point we’ll move to monthly monitoring.
Step 4: Work, measure, adjust, repeat.
Example: If you’re not seeing progress after your launch, try fine-tuning elements and monitor results over a couple of months. If you’re way ahead of your goal, keep going!
This process should be repeated for each of your SMART goals, think about the obvious metric that shows you how successful you’re being but look at the metrics that will help you come to conclusions that are actionable too.
By looking at our cart abandonment rate we can see whether it's the donation process that’s preventing people from donating or whether we need to look at other areas such as messaging or the pages that visitors are exiting on.
Benchmarks to consider as your starting point
When starting to look at the benchmark metrics you could use, it’s easy to see why so many feel overwhelmed and give up. We’ve given you a handful of key benchmarks we think you should consider as a starting point. From there, you can start to see what metrics are important to your business and its objectives.
Try not to be too tempted to focus all of your attention on the traffic to your website; visitor numbers and sessions (number of visits). It can be quite difficult to create any actionable conclusions from these types of metrics, they give you very little detail about how your visitors are actually interacting with your site or which pages need improving.
They will, however, give you a well-rounded picture of how your site is performing and is a great quick metric you can monitor regularly. Add them into your bank of metrics to monitor but look beyond your visitor and session numbers.
The metrics you should aim your attention to are the ones that measure engagement and give you valuable insight into whether or not users are interacting with your site. Below I’ve added a number of metrics for you to use as a starting point:
- Page Load Time - This may not appear critical on the face of it but it's important to remember that visitors rarely stay long on a site struggling to load. Best practice, according to Google, is under 3 seconds. The longer your site takes to load, the more likely people are to leave your site without even reading the first word. (image of green bars on bounce rates). This metric needs to be split into desktop and mobile as their times will vary.
- Bounce Rate - This is the number of users who visit a single page on your site and then exit without visiting another page or interacting. Your bounce rate is the percentage of all sessions on your site. This may be due to slow loading speeds, poor design / navigation, misleading search titles and meta descriptions (which search engines use) or a number of other reasons. If the page your visitor entered on is engaging and leads them deeper into your site, the bounce rate will decrease. If not, it will increase. That makes this metric an excellent eCommerce benchmark.
- Traffic Source - This tells you where your visitors are coming from. This will help you to make decisions about whether to invest more or less time and money into a certain channel. They can shed light on which channels are most effective or your particular audience(s) prefer. Using this metric over time will help you to understand what is most effective for your business.
- Conversion Rates - These indicate the effectiveness of your strategy by showing you how many of your visitors are completing goals you’ve set. Your goal could be anything from subscribing to a mailing list to purchasing a product. The average conversion rate for eCommerce in the UK was 1.8% in 2019. Depending on your goals, your rates will vary and you should try to find relevant data for your industry.
- Mobile - You want to measure how many visitors use a mobile device vs. desktop to use your website. Your new website should be as smooth, fast and visually pleasing as your desktop. Your pagespeed tools will measure how your site performs on mobile and Google Analytics will show you devices.
- Accessibility - This isn’t necessarily a metric in itself but is very important. Many tools use a score out of 100. The closer to 100/100 the better your website. There are a number of tools which can be used for this, many of which will give you a list of areas you need to improve.
- Cart Abandonment Rate - This tells you how many potential customers began your checkout process but dropped off before completing the purchase. A little warning, it can be a heartbreaking metric if you’re not where you want to be - watching someone fail at the final hurdle can really put a dent in your pride. The easier and smoother your checkout process, the lower your abandonment rate.
- New customer orders vs. returning customer orders - Gaining new customers is important but building customer loyalty can add a great deal of value including higher order values and word of mouth marketing.
- Average Order Size - This is how much an average customer spends per order. The goal for your new website is to increase the order size. The more each customer spends the bigger your ROI will be on your new website.
According to a Barclaycard survey, British shoppers abandon online baskets worth almost £30 a month, potentially resulting in more than £18bn in lost sales every year.
Helpful Benchmarking Tools
Just like the number of metrics you can measure, you may find the number of tools equally as daunting. Here’s a short list of some key tools (both paid for & free) we think you should use to start your benchmarking journey.
Google Analytics - The abundance of information you can extract from Google Analytics is incredible. If you haven’t used it before, it may feel like a huge learning curve but it will be well worth investing some time to learn.
SEMrush - Once upon a time SEMrush was known as an SEO platform, it has now grown into a marketing platform that looks at many marketing areas including SEO, Advertising, Content Marketing, Competitive Research and Campaign Management. It can:
- Help you research your competitor’s SEO, PPC, and overall online traffic strategy
- Perform content audits, build content templates and find new topic ideas for your site
- Research your competitor’s PPC campaigns
- Analyse your competitor’s link profiles, perform in-depth keyword research, track rankings, identify on-page issues
And that’s just scratching the surface!
67% of mobile users will leave a website if they are frustrated with the navigation
Quantcast Measure - This gives you accurate insights about who your audience is, their buying interests, hobbies, age range, political interests and many more. You can compare your site traffic and audience data to other sites. Embed the Quantcast tracking code on your own site to gather data specific to your visitors and your ecommerce or lead generation website. Best of all, it’s free.
Google PageSpeed Tools - This tool rates your website to how easy and fast it loads on desktop and mobile devices. It then gives you suggestions on how to improve your score which you can pass on to your developers or agency to amend in your support time.
HubSpot’s Website Grader - This takes Google’s PageSpeed tool and adds extra insights on your site’s performance, SEO, and security. You’ll also get recommendations on how to improve any areas for improvement which you can pass on to your developers or agency which can be amended during your support time.
Benchmarking, if you haven’t done it already, can be a time consuming job and isn’t one we recommend solely for upgrading your website. It should be a continual process that encourages you to keep improving and growing beyond the new website launch.
If you’re looking to upgrade your website with or without your benchmarks, contact our team to start your journey to an improved and upgraded website.
To see the rest our website upgrade series, take a look at the links below:
Step 1: Your SMART Website Goals
Step 3: Writing User Stories
Step 4: Documenting Site Features
Step 6 part 1: Don't guess... Benchmark... The Answer is in Your Data